Thursday, February 26, 2015

Travel Channel's Booze Traveler Premieres Tennessee Episode on Monday

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 8:51 AM

Jack Maxwell
  • Jack Maxwell
Jack Maxwell is the host of Booze Traveler on the Travel Channel. After a season of traveling the world discovering unique spirits products and the stories behind their creation in 13 countries, Maxwell's production team finally decided to celebrate America's spirit (and its spirits). Even though they aired a Louisiana episode last week, they actually came first to Tennessee to film several segments on our liquor industry.

The episode is the finale of this season and will air at 9 p.m. this Monday, March 2. I spoke to Maxwell on the phone, and the Boston-based beverage professional was positively giddy about his visit to the Volunteer State. "I loved Tennessee in general. I saw a surprising amount of Red Sox caps." (Who knew?) He traveled the length of the state, from Memphis to Nashville to Knoxville with side trips to Gatlinburg to visit Ole Smoky Moonshine.

During his time in Music City, Maxwell hit many of the hot spots. "We had some pre-Prohibition cocktails at The Patterson House that were fantastic. I grew up in the city, so I don't know much about honky-tonkin', but Tootsie's was a blast." He even took a turn pitching in a vintage baseball league game. But most of all, he focused on the burgeoning spirits scene in and around Nashville.

"We all drink for the same reasons: to socialize, to celebrate, or even sometimes to mourn. But there's no better way to get to know a person than to buy them a drink. This really is a show that's more about people than about drinks."

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Hot Beer Festival News: East Nashville Beer Fest, and Nuit Belge

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 7:28 AM

Rivaled only by the release of the quarterly discounted gift cards from the Nashville Originals and the annual land grab for the limited tickets to the 12South Winter Warmer, tomorrow is a day to be fast with your fingers and sitting at your computer at 10 a.m. That's because tickets go on sale for the annual East Nashville Beer Festival at that time on Friday, Feb. 27.

The event, which will again be held in East Park on April 11, promises to add several new breweries to the lineup, new food options, a change to the live music setup and a rearranged festival site. New this year is a special "Golden Ticket" option (limit 2 per person) which will provide early entry at 11:30am, a special gold flake tasting glass which is different then the regular glasses and access to special rare beers.

There is a four-ticket limit for individual purchasers, so team up with friends if you want to take a big group, because everybody knows that drinking alone is sad. Unless that's what you like to do. Or you're a food and drink writer who works at home. (Do my two dogs count as drinking buddies?)

Tickets will go on (and quickly off) sale at 10 tomorrow, so go ahead and bookmark the ticketing page and get ready to click away!

Meanwhile, there's more Rhizome Productions beer festival news. Last month I gave you all the heads-up about a new beer festival on the calendar, Nuit Belge. Surprisingly, it hasn't completely sold out yet; admittedly the price tag is a bit steeper than most other beer fests around town, but this has been promised to be a really high-class event, and the newly-released menu certainly seems to follow through on that promise.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Sweet Spot: Parliament Chocolate Bars

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 12:24 PM

Quite possibly the best chocolate bar label ever.
  • Quite possibly the best chocolate bar label ever.
The Sweet Spot is a weekly Bites feature where sugar addict Megan Seling reviews some of the best, worst and weirdest sweet treats sold here in Nashville.

What it is: Parliament Chocolate Bars

Where I found it: Dose Coffee & Tea on Murphy Road, about $5 each

What it tastes like: Of course I had to buy these chocolate bars. Look at the sophisticated-looking owls on the labels! I feel like the one with the top hat and monocle has a British accent and says things like " 'Ello, guv'nah!" and "Pip pip, old bean!"

Though these small-batch bars come from different origins (Bolivia and the Dominican Republic), they both have 70 percent cacao and only two ingredients — cacao and cane sugar — so I didn't expect to taste much of a difference between the two. But holy wow, I was wrong. They taste like two completely different pieces of candy! (I mean, they are, but I foolishly assumed the difference would be much more subtle instead of obvious and immediate.)

The Bolivia Alto Beni bar, with the monocle-wearing owl on the front, was the most surprising. With notes of "black truffle, umami and mild oak finish" described on the label, I prepared myself for the possibility that it would taste dusty or fungusy, but again, I assumed wrong. I am a fool. It was delightfully creamy (though not overwhelmingly so) and it actually tasted savory. The truffle finish is really strong, too — it'd be a good match for someone who likes their chocolate with less sugary bells and whistles.

The Dominican Republic Öko Caribe bar tasted more familiar — it's sweeter and, as the label says, contains notes of "red grapes, prune, honey, hibiscus and pomegranate." I couldn't differentiate the prune from the grapes from the pomegranate — it just had a nice, recognizable but general fruit flavor — but when fellow candy fanatic Steve Cavendish took a bite he exclaimed, "Oh yeah, you can definitely taste the raisins." I guess I'm just going to have to eat more chocolate to practice developing my palate.

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Maneet Chauhan Contributes to Digital Cookbook

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 8:03 AM

A few years ago, I told you about an innovative new digital cookbook from publisher Alta Editions titled Laurent Gras: My Provence. At the time, I was struck by how the book combined text, photos and video to present a nice behind-the-scenes look at a chef in his kitchen. I finished my review by saying, "After playing around with Laurent Gras: My Provence for a little while, I certainly hope they do put out more of these."

Well, they have, and their new book has a local component. The Journey features four female chefs who have made names for themselves in the competitive world of restaurants. The talented chefs are Alex Raij, Katy Sparks, Rita Sodi and newly transplanted Nashvillian Maneet Chauhan of Chauhan Ale and Masala House. Chef Chauhan shares her creation story in the digital book, telling of learning about Indian cuisine at the elbows of her aunties working in the kitchen.

A career as a chef in India is a rare choice for a woman, but Chauhan remained determined and moved to America to find her fortune. She also shares her philosophy of cuisine and flavors as part of her chapter in The Journey. While I wish there were a few more recipes in the book, the ones that are included are clearly written, and photographs help to clearly illustrate the cooking and plating process.

Plus, the book is only $3.99, so it's not a huge investment to find out about Chef Chauhan and the other three remarkable chefs. If you're interested, you can find out more about the book at the Alta Editions website. Plus you can even preview five recipes for free!

And we'll do you one better. Chef Chauhan was gracious enough to share one of her recipes for her new neighbors exclusively here at Bites. Check out the recipe for her Harayali Shrimp Kebab on Quinoa Pomegranate Chaat after the jump:

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pick Who Picks Your Food at CSA Fair

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 at 7:42 AM

I know with the weather lately it's hard to think about fresh vegetables and eating anything you didn't harvest from the bottom of your freezer after Kroger ran out of staples. But before you know it, vegetables will be ready to harvest, and bushel baskets of bounty will begin to show up at local farmers markets. It's also time to start thinking about if you want to participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program this year and which particular farm you'd like to hitch your chuckwagon to.

To help out with that important choice, Team Green, the Nashville Farmers' Market and Local Table Magazine have planned a CSA Fair at the NFM on Wednesday, March 18 from 6-8 p.m. The event is free and will kick off with a quick presentation on how CSAs work, followed by the opportunity for attendees to meet individually with the local farmers who operate the CSAs.

Each farm will have a display booth with pictures of their farms, lists of typical products by season and the location of local pickup points for various days of the week. As of today, the list of CSAs participating includes:

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Monday, February 23, 2015

What'd You Eat This Weekend? Pork Shoulder, Candy Necklaces and No-Pudge Fudge Brownies

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 2:38 PM

Laura Hutson: "Buying 'No Pudge! Fudge Brownie Mix' is like the grocery store equivalent of ordering an Oreo mudslide at the bar. There's just no dignity in it. But if you ignore the terrible branding and the cartoon pig measuring its waist, it's actually pretty good stuff and one of my favorite quick desserts. No fake sugar or chemical additives — just cane sugar, wheat flour, egg whites and cocoa — and it's pretty easy to make. You just mix in a cup of yogurt and stick it in the oven."

Steve Cavendish: "For the Oscars, I did a small pork shoulder in the oven and then made a really interesting barbecue sauce from Edward Lee’s cookbook Smoke & Pickles. Lee does a masterful job of blending Southern and Korean flavors, and his “Black BBQ Sauce” is a great example. He starts with a fairly typical tomato-based sauce and then adds black bean paste and a couple of other Asian influences. The result? A smoky, spicy sauce that’s outstanding. Serve the whole thing over sticky rice."

Abby White: "Let's just start this by pointing out that I spent Saturday night on a Glow Party Bus, which is exactly what it sounds like. In lieu of dinner, I ate candy necklaces (fun idea for drunk adults) and gummy bracelets (terrible idea for everybody — what a sticky mess) whilst drinking shots out of waterguns. With all of that information, you should not be surprised to learn that I got engaged with a heart-shaped ring pop at some point that night. But if you ate your engagement ring, that's like calling the whole thing off, right?"

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Warm Soups, Full Hearts, Can't Lose: Winners From Soup Sunday

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 12:59 PM

Soup Sunday judges determining the winners
  • Photo: Squeaky Wheel PR
  • Soup Sunday judges determining the winners
I hope everyone who wanted to attend this year’s Our Kids Soup Sunday this past weekend was able to go. This year’s restriction on ticket sales meant no tickets were available at the door, and the event sold out two weeks in advance. The restriction also made for a more enjoyable experience with a much more manageable crowd, making it easier to get the first round of soups as well as second tastings of favorites.

Due to the weather, seven restaurants — including The Sutler, which flooded from melting ice in the basement — were unable to participate, but there was still a lot of great soup to be tasted. And I was happy that more than a dozen restaurants were serving vegetarian soups. Even the dedicated omnivores from B&C BBQ and Lockeland Table served vegetarian “dessert soups,” which were my daughter’s favorites (Peaches and Cream-sicle With White Chocolate Swizzle and Blueberry Pie Soup with Mascarpone Whipped Cream, respectively).

My favorite soup of the day was the Champagne Truffle and Porcini Crème soup from Trattoria Il Mulino (soon to open in the renovated space in the Hilton downtown, formerly occupied by the Eddie George Sports Grille). I also loved the Tomato Bisque from The Harding House (which was served with a tiny cheddar biscuit), the Roasted Onion Soup with Goat Cheese Crouton from 12South Taproom, and the Roasted Leek and Cauliflower Soup with Kale Oil and Croutons from Pomodoro East. There were more; in fact, this is the first year that I finished every soup I tried. No bad or even so-so soups in the bunch. They were all winners.

My husband had an even more difficult time choosing favorites, but among them were the Mexican Pozole from The Unicorn, Vanderbilt University Dining’s Peach and Habanero Soup With a Tempura Bacon Lardon; Park 25’s Roasted Red Pepper, Artichoke; and Pork Belly Bisque and Watermark’s Gulf Seafood Bouillabaisse.

Judging was a difficult job, but the list of culinary experts — including Deb Paquette of Etch, Dale Levitski of Sinema, Maneet Chauhan of Chauhan Ale and Masala House, Kristen Beringson of City Winery, Sarah Gavigan of Otaku South, Trevor Moran of The Catbird Seat, Al Anderson from Big Al's Deli, and Mike Kelly from Jimmy Kelly's — tasked with making the decisions was up for the challenge. It’s interesting to note that judges’ favorites coincide with crowd favorites more than usual, too. The list of official winners is as follows:

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Franklin's Main Street Brew Fest will Be a Pre-St. Patty's Party

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 7:39 AM

The Downtown Franklin Association is blocking off the streets for a real throwdown next month. The 12th annual Main Street Brew Fest will take place on Saturday, March 14, so it's logical that they're planning a St. Patrick's theme. More than 30 pouring stations will offer samples of 70-plus craft beers from 6 to 9 p.m. Local Williamson County breweries such as Cool Springs Brewery and Turtle Anarchy will be featured, along with Jubilee and Mayday Brewery. Attendees will also enjoy entertainment in the form of Celtic music.

Downtown stores will be open for your browsing pleasure, and local restaurants like McCreary’s Irish Pub and Eatery invite patrons to drop in for a bite. Tickets for the Main Street Brew Fest are $45 and have traditionally sold out well in advance, so click over to the event website and get yours today.

To encourage a better flow of traffic, ticket-holders will now check in at City Hall to get a site map, a description of the beers and a tasting glass. To help facilitate getting around, the Franklin Transit Authority is offering round-trip transportation to and from locations inside Franklin city limits for a $6 fee. To reserve a ride, call 615-628-0263 or email Those trolley tickets often sell out in advance, too, so don't dawdle!

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Friday, February 20, 2015

The Weekly Open Thread: There's No Food Like Snowed-In Food

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Nashville has struggled this week with some nasty precipitation and rocky road conditions (no, not the good kind of rocky road).

Schools are out all week, and many people have been trapped in the house for days. And even if you could get out to the store, the shelves were often picked clean of staples. A lot of folks have been forced to get creative in the kitchen.

Or not. A friend has had nothing but bologna sandwiches for four days, and it's growing tiresome. I'd eat a bologna sandwich, but I couldn't find anything but cinnamon-raisin English muffins in the bread aisle at the store. Bad flavor combo.

How about you, Bites folks? Did you dig deep in the pantry and create a surprising concoction? Or has this been the excuse you've been waiting for to feast exclusively on Cap'n Crunch?

And what else is on your mind?

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Nashville Chefs to Shine at Charleston and Atlanta Food Fests

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 8:01 AM

Being the current "It City," especially with regard to the food scene, means everybody wants a piece of our culinary pie. It might seem a bit odd to travel to see our own talented chefs at work, but there are some great regional festivals coming up where Nashville will be quite well-represented.

At next month's Charleston Wine and Food Festival, running March 4-8, you'll see some familiar faces working in the kitchens of Charleston's best restaurants. This will be the 10th edition of the festival, so they're planning to blow it out for the celebration. It's always a great time full of amazing food and drink, but this year should be especially memorable.

Nashville chefs participating for the first time in various events during the weekend include Brandon Frohne of Mason's, Matt Farley from The Southern Steak and Oyster, Trey Cioccia of The Farm House, Matt Bolus from The 404 Kitchen and Etch's Deb Paquette. Bolus should be particularly comfortable in the environment since his résumé includes cooking at Mike Lata's Charleston restaurant FIG. Chef Deb will busy cooking for 250 patrons at the Southern Betty Brunch, along with some of the best female chefs from across the region.

Tandy Wilson of City House will be featured at one of the signature dinner events of the festival at The Old Village Post House, where he'll be cooking alongside Forrest Parker, whom some of you might remember from his successful stint cooking at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. Part-time Nashvillians Dan Latimer and Sean Brock of Husk will be representing both the Nashville and Charleston outposts of Husk at several events throughout the festival. Tickets are still available for many of the events at the festival website, and Southwest happens to be running a fare sale to Charleston this week.

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